New York City's bodegas are a stalwart of the city. They keep New Yorkers of all shapes, sizes, ethnicities and wealth fed, watered and stocked up on all manner of items in their dearest times of needs. Some of these businesses have had to close down during the pandemic, while others have been remaining open to provide groceries and jobs to their neighborhoods, despite a major drop in sales.
Vita Coca, the coconut water brand born in NYC, was originally planning to launch a campaign this spring focusing on its Pressed coconut water line, until the pandemic changed the brand’s plans. Together, Vita Coco’s marketing team and agency Interesting Development decided instead to use their media buy to support bodegas – a category of shops that has traditionally been a big source of sales for the brand since its launch.
Vita Coco launched 'love letters to bodegas' an OOH campaign comprised of ads on phone kiosks and wild postings throughout Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens, as well as window posters distributed directly to bodegas. Each love letter starts with 'Dearest Bodega' and closes with 'Love, Vita Coco'. The various attributes of bodegas appreciated by Vita Coco include a lack of judgement of their patrons, variety of products ('You’re our convenience store, hardware store, deli, supermarket and second home.') and, of course, the beloved BEC (bacon, egg, cheese) bodega breakfast sandwich. The posters emulate the unique, idiosyncratic look of the bodega and serve as a thank you to bodegas for keeping the stores open and shelves stocked amid the pandemic.
What's more, Vita Coco partnered with My Bodega Online, the recently launched delivery app, to deliver the 'Essential New York Breakfast' – including a BEC breakfast sandwich and Vita Coco Coconut Water – to 5,000 local healthcare workers at six hospitals across New York City. From May 22 – June 12, Vita Coco purchased breakfasts from bodegas across the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens, and distributed these directly to healthcare workers at hospitals including Lincoln Medical Center in the Bronx, Elmhurst Hospital in Queens and NYU Langone Health in Manhattan.
To find out more about this homage to NYC's brilliant bodegas, LBB's Addison Capper chatted with Paul Caiozzo, co-founder and chief creative officer, Interesting Development.
LBB> This year's spring campaign was meant to be something unrelated - when did you decide to take a different strategy and why?
Paul> Bodegas were hurting, and they are extremely important to all of us.
LBB> As an outsider, NYC's bodegas are one of my favourite parts of visiting the city. I never realised stores could have SO MUCH. What do bodegas mean to you personally?
Paul> They are where we eat most meals, buy essentials and feel welcome 24/7. I’ve moved out of neighbourhoods because I didn’t like the local bodega. I walk an extra five blocks now to the one I like.
LBB> Why did you decide to base this campaign around them? What was the initial inspiration? And why is it right for the Vita Coco brand?
Paul> Bodegas were some of the first businesses to carry Vita Coco when coconut water was a relatively new concept in the US, so they really helped the brand get its start. We based the campaign around the chaotic graphic design style that defines the bodega.
LBB> What research and insight informed this campaign?
Paul> Besides research into the current fiscal state of the bodega, we applied a lifetime of living and loving this city.
LBB> The art direction is everything here - it's such a particular style! Tell me about that process. How did you ensure you were staying true to that style? And how did you find the process of creating like that?
Paul> A lot of research. Taking pictures. Sharing them. Comparing and making sure we were being true and authentic and celebratory. This is a loving homage. I think it's most designers’ dream to get a free pass to work in such a chaotic and unique and satisfying style.
LBB> There's actually very little Vita Coco branding visible. Why is that?
Paul> This is about helping the bodegas.
LBB> What are the main aims and ambitions of this campaign?
Paul> Raising awareness of how special the bodega is, to encourage more people to shop there. Since the reduced foot traffic due to lockdown, they are really hurting.
LBB> What were the trickiest components and how did you overcome them?
Paul> This visual style is a lot harder to nail than you might think. Art directors have to unlearn their training a little and follow their heart.
LBB> Any parting thoughts?
Paul> *SEC SPK is better than BEC SPK, and I will go on the record.
*Note to non-NY readers: SEC = Sausage, egg and cheese; BEC = bacon, egg and cheese; SPK = salt, pepper and ketchup. :-)